Light Insects Drippin From Face
Is net art really a movement? It's a good question. The lack of consensus allows each player to create his or her own meaning. In any case, we can define net art as a practice designed for, by, and with the internet whose reality is restricted to the web. Among the artists participating in this practice is Emilie Gervais.
Gervais uses the internet simultaneously as an online support tool and creative environment. Still a student, she creates her art mostly thanks to her own research and social media feeds. And often recontextualizes her work—regular updates allow new versions to replace older ones. The interactive worlds she sets up are short-lived, evoking a 90s aesthetic and are characterized by 8-bit visuals, GIFs, and washed-out fluorescents.
To learn more about her work and her thoughts on the whole net art thing, we got in touch with Gervais.
The Creators Project: You live in France, but originally you're from Canada and it seems you've traveled a lot and are not "rooted" to a fixed location. Tell us a bit about your background.
Emilie Gervais: I was born in Montreal. I've basically never been to the same school two years in a row. I've lived in Mont-Tremblant, San Francisco, Paris, Montreal, and some of its South Shore suburbs. Right now I'm located in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. Moving around was mainly due to my dad's work. He's an architect. My mom's a teacher. I've been using computers since forever. It's kinda like playing ice hockey to me.
And what about your extensive internet usage? Surely it was motivated in part due to you moving and traveling so much yet needing to stay connected with the people you left behind? But, beyond its role as a social tool, how did you come to reinvent your use of the internet into art? How did you come to work in net art?
Net art is a thing I found appealing as an internet user. Before 2010, I'd make websites for some of my projects but I wasn't into mediating stuff much. It was never about documenting anything, it was more about how the project extended itself in that space. I was into bringing internet paradigms into physical space and vice-versa. In some of my projects, I'm interested in net art as an archetype. In others, I don't consider 'net art' at all.
Okay, if we understand your idea correctly, the mere use of the internet as a new artistic medium does not justify speaking of net art? That's an interesting remark—one that demands some reflection. But the use of the internet also allows works with a performative quality to be created—the user is central to your work and to net art in general. How would you describe your work? Can we say performance 2.0?
Does the internet of things speak of "net art"? I question performance art consciously without doing anything performative. I've never really related to performance art. I kinda hate most performance art stuff. What I do can be perceived as performative because of the way I organize my content. It's just that though: content organization in a different context of reception, which leads to different simulated behavioral patterns or code of conducts. Sometimes it creates some kinda performative immersive environment. Sometimes, some people consider it as AI spam. You can talk of performance 2.0 if you want.
In a way, your work focuses on the interaction between the individual and the “cyberworld”. You question identity a lot. Can you tell us a bit more about this concept? Is it central to your work?
There is no cyberworld unless there is a Space Jam world that I'm unaware of. Identity is an inherent theme in my stuff, but I barely ever really think about it. It's just there. I'm mainly interested in how people use the internet, how it affects and develops cultural stuff, how data shapes us as human beings and open source stuff.
About your current projects—Parked Domain Girl, Fuck Privacy, Myogenic Muscular Organ—can you give us some technical details so that we can get an idea of how you work?
Any future endeavors on the horizon?
Yes, stuff. Also, I'm curating a pavilion for The Wrong Biennale opening on November 1, 2013.
What has the critical reception of your work been like? In particular at your school in France, which is still very academic. Are they ready to accept this kind of work?
It's complicated and conflicting when it comes to my school. I think the French art academic system needs a makeover. Not just that one, actually. Last year I made my own art school called Bed Art School. I figured I'd learn and work more straight from my bed. I barely ever went to school except on Fridays to attend hypermedia classes. This year, I have been doing slightly the same thing. So basically I'm going through art school without really being in it. The internet is my school.
In your opinion, given the growing number of artists working on what's commonly called "net art", how do you expect this movement will evolve?
To me, it's more like R.I.P. net art than anything else, like rosalind-krauss.net. I've just tweeted "Is Net Art as a movement a thing? No RIGHT? Plz confirm." and Theodore Darst fav'ed it within five seconds. Thinking of net art as a movement is like thinking of phone art as a movement. It's kinda irrelevant.
Finally, is it true that you have 124 email addresses, but have lost 117 passwords?!
I've never kept count. I always make new accounts for specific stuff and then I use them once or twice. For anyone who just likes creating email addresses mailinator.com is pretty rad.
GIFs courtesy of Emilie Gervais.